A guide to travel vaccinations

If you’re travelling outside of the UK, you may need vaccinations to protect you against serious diseases that can be found in certain countries.

If you’re travelling outside of the UK, you may need vaccinations to protect you against serious diseases that can be found in certain countries.

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
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Posted 18 NOVEMBER 2019

What vaccinations do I need?

Whether you need vaccinations will depend on where you’re travelling to, what vaccinations you’ve already had and what you’ll be doing – for example, if you’re volunteering in a rural area, you may be more at risk of contracting some diseases. NHS fit for travel provides a guide that shows the recommended vaccinations per country.

You’ll need to visit your GP who’ll look at your medical history and see what vaccinations you’ve had, and if you need any boosters or additional vaccines. You’ll also need to tell your GP if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have a condition that affects your immune system.


A travel traffic light system has been introduced for international travel. From 19 July 2021, trips to green and amber listed countries are legally permitted if you live in England and Scotland. However, you’ll still need to fulfil any pre-departure requirements, such as testing. If you live in Wales and Northern Ireland, you still need to follow the rules for your relevant local authority.

If a country is on the green or amber list, you still need to check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for each country you visit or transit through. This is to ensure you’re aware of any specific requirements relating to entry and to check travellers from the UK are permitted. Countries can have their traffic light status changed at short notice and you should take this into consideration when looking to travel. Please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice for the latest information.

The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to red listed countries. Should you choose to travel against the FCDO rules, you will not be covered by any travel insurance policy you purchase. Some providers do offer cover for international travel if you’re travelling for essential purposes, however most do not. In all cases, should you have any queries please check the policy wording or contact your chosen provider before purchasing to ensure the cover meets your needs.

Travel within England, Scotland and Wales is permitted under the current guidelines. However, public health rules and lockdown restrictions continue to vary, including entry restrictions for Northern Ireland. Check the latest guidance from the official tourism boards for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has launched a directory of insurance providers on its Money Advice Service website that may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.

When do I need to get my vaccinations?

To get advice on vaccinations, speak to your doctor as early as possible – at the very minimum eight weeks before you travel. This is because some vaccinations may require more than one course, spread over a period of time, to allow your body to develop immunity. You’ll also want to ensure you can get an appointment booked in, particularly during the peak holiday season. If your GP can’t carry out the vaccinations, they may simply refer you to a travel clinic that can.

Which vaccinations are free under the NHS?

The NHS offers free vaccinations for some diseases to encourage people to have them, thereby reducing the likelihood of people returning to the UK with the disease and spreading the infection. The following vaccinations are free on the NHS:

  • typhoid
  • hepatitis A
  • cholera
  • polio (given as a combined diphtheria/tetanus/polio
  • vaccine)

Your doctor should be able to advise you on which vaccinations are a necessity and those that are lower risk (these are discretionary and shouldn’t impact your travel insurance). You might be referred to a specialist health centre or travel clinic to receive your vaccinations if they’re not available at your GP practice.

Which vaccines will I have to pay for?

There are some vaccinations that you’ll need to pay for. If your doctor can give you the vaccinations you need but the costs aren’t covered under the NHS, you can ask for written information on what vaccines are needed, the cost and dosage. You can either get them done at your GP or a travel clinic, whatever is more convenient. If the vaccines aren’t available at your GP, you can take this information to a travel clinic, who will carry out the vaccinations.

You’ll have to pay for the following vaccinations, if your GP recommends you need them:

  • hepatitis B
  • meningitis vaccines
  • rabies
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • tuberculosis (TB)
  • yellow fever

The cost of these vaccines will vary, depending on where you get your vaccination, the dosage you need and how long you’ll be away for. You may also be expected to pay for additional medication, depending on where you’re travelling to, such as anti-malaria tablets. Vaccinations and medication can cost anything from £30-100 each.

Are vaccines covered by my travel insurance?

The cost of your travel vaccinations will not be covered by your travel insurance. However, if you have private health insurance, your plan may cover the cost of vaccines that aren’t covered under the NHS. You’ll need to check this with your health insurance provider before going to the doctor.

What happens if I don’t get vaccinated?

If you don’t get the recommended vaccinations and become unwell as a result, you can invalidate your travel insurance policy. It’s important that you have all the necessary vaccinations before you travel, and make sure you take with you any medication you need while you’re away.

Some countries might also require a certificate as proof of vaccinations before you’re allowed to enter that country. You’ll be able to get this from the travel clinic or GP practice that gave you your vaccines.

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